4 MAY 1923, Page 12


[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] SIR,—I am glad that you have drawn attention to Signor Mussolini's remarkable article in which ideas, now nebulous but assuming shape, are expressed with welcome directness. The Fascist leader, as you point out, agrees with Mr. Bernard Shaw's recent outburst ; but he is able to give reasons, which could easily be expanded. He asserts that" Liberalism is not . . . the final formula in the case of Government," which he wisely describes as a "most difficult and delicate art," and he might have added that it is becoming rapidly more difficult, more delicate and even dangerous.

The nineteenth century accepted " Liberalism " as the " last word," fondly believed that it guaranteed liberty, and held that any symptom of failure only implied that the dose was not sufficient and must be increased. The twentieth century, with rich and varied experience accumulating every day before its eyes, is certainly beginning to doubt the validity of the "immortal principles." Formulas such as "liberty, equality and fraternity," "will of the people," "self-govern- ment is better than good government," "force is no remedy," to which Mr. Wilson added "self-determination," have lost their glamour. We realize that liberty is incompatible with equality, and equality is destructive of liberty. It has been left to an American to expose the basic fallacy of the Declaration of Independence by insisting upon "the iron law of inequality." We have hopelessly failed to devise any means of ascertaining the "will of the people," where the people have any "will," though you, Sir, would claim that, for certain purposes, a referendum could be trusted. We watch " self-government " leading to anarchy. We begin to wonder whether, failing force, civilization can be saved. We already see that " self-determination " is, as Mr. Lansing said, "loaded with dynamite." In a sentence, we are tending to doubt whether democracy can ever give us any desirable form of liberty.

All this is very disturbing, and Mr. J. A. Spender, a con- sistent and persuasive apostle of democracy, now recognized as inseparable from bureaucracy, is quite unable to meet Signor Mussolini's justification of Fascismo and contents himself with alarming predictions as to the effects of the "defeat of Liberalism." Yet, as he says, "Liberty is really at the bottom of it all," and Signor Mussolini would not disagree. He would, of course, claim that he assumed power by the "will of the people," although he might never have attained it at the polls by what is euphemistically called political organization of electorates. He can also claim to have saved Italy from rapidly approaching disaster and already to have carried out necessary reforms which the Constitutional machine could nevo,r have accomplished.

Mr. Spender defines liberty as "the claim of the com- munity to a permanent consideration surpassing the interests of a particular ruler or government." How liberty, which after all must be measured only by the experience of the individual, can be defined as "a claim" to anything is quite beyond me, and if one attempts to define "a community" in terms of democracy, one arrives only at a majority of votes which need not even represent a majority of the com- munity and may have been compiled by nefarious manipula- tions of uninstructed opinion. A majority of this kind, so built up, is evidently capable of obliterating the liberty of the individual.

I agree with you that "men are not so much tired as frightened of liberty," by which I assume that you really mean licence, because only strong Governments can ever give real liberty and only disciplined peoples are fit to enjoy it. A well disciplined is always a happy ship or regiment. There is, however, an organic difference between the proceedings of Signor Mussolini and of Lenin, whom you couple as "experimenters." The one has sanctions quite as genuine as could have been obtained by any other possible Italian Premier. The other is the leader of a conspiracy which seized power in Petrograd and Moscow by the precise methods adopted by the engineers of the French Revolution and extended it over the peasant masses by bribing them with the offer of the land subsequently declared not to be their property. Lenin and his Judaeo-Russian accomplices have so far continued to maintain their dictatorship solely by conscripted troops with a serviceable mercenary Chinese contingent. The one, therefore, complied with the con- ditions laid down by Hobbes 300 years ago which the other flagrantly violated. Are you sure that a reversion to the principles expounded in The Leviathan, which, unlike Mr. Spender's defence of Liberalism, have the merit of clarity, is a "retrograde step" ?—I am, Sir, &c., SYDENTIAM.